Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija’s first season in San Francisco was ultimately not far from what the Giants hoped it would be. Samardzija gave them the desired durability, throwing 203 innings with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts. 

The route to those final numbers was remarkably circuitous. Samardzija had a 2.84 ERA through the season’s first two months, but that number jumped all the way up to 6.23 over his next 11 starts, seven of them losses for the team. As the Giants went into a second-half tailspin, Samardzija found his groove and helped keep them in the playoff race. He had a 2.45 ERA over his final 10 starts, earning the nod as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. That appearance against the Cubs lasted just two innings. 

The up-and-down season showed the Giants two very different versions of a big offseason acquisition, and at times opposing hitters saw two very different Samardzijas. He went heavy on his cutter early, but when hitters started teeing off on pitches that all came in at a somewhat similar velocity, Samardzija mixed in a curveball that was completely mothballed through June. Down the stretch, when he found his form, Samardzija brought back his splitter and ignored the cutter. He threw 165 cutters in April but just two in September. On the flip side, he threw 113 splitters in September after never throwing more than 35 the first five months. 

“He found the splitter and using it more made him more of a complete pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the four (main) pitches now. They can’t just sit on the hard stuff. He had a good year. It was a little bump there, but he had a great run and was throwing the ball really well (down the stretch). He’s one of our guys. We certainly think (that deal) is going to pay off, and it did last year. He got us deep into games consistently.”

Samardzija learned from the up-and-down year, and during his first start of the spring, he varied the repertoire. He gave up two runs in the first inning but was pleased with a curveball he threw four times — twice for called strikes, twice for foul balls. 

“If you can get it going here in Arizona, it’s going to be a pretty solid pitch for you,” he said. “(Bringing it back last year) was kind of out of necessity. I picked it up and played around with it and it felt good.”

The curveball, which he hadn't thrown since 2012, changed eye levels last season and kept hitters from loading up on pitches in the low to mid 90s. Samardzija further expanded the velocity gap by finding the feel of a splitter that had toyed with him for years.

“For me, with that splitter coming back late in the year, it’s going to be about mixing it in and seeing what feels good on that day, seeing what’s going to be the out pitch,” he said. “I had been chasing (the feel) of it since 2014. We broke it all the way back down and went back to zero. So many guys were sitting fastball. To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.”

The Giants expect the more varied approach to lead to big results in 2017, and Samardzija could subtly benefit from a change Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti made. Samardzija will pitch behind left-hander Matt Moore, not Johnny Cueto. He said he would often last season compare notes with Cueto, who like Samardzija, pitched most of his career in the NL Central. The two would often take a similar approach on the mound.

“(Opponents will) have to face a tough lefty like Moore, so they can’t have that same lineup two days in a row,” Samardzija said. “To me, that’s big.”

 

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

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USATSI

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement Monday calling on Major League Baseball to issue sanctions on Giants CEO Larry Baer over a March 1 incident involving his wife, Pam.

“When the incident first occurred involving Larry Baer and his wife, the San Francisco Police Department immediately began an investigation,” Breed said in the statement posted on her website. "That investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, Major League Baseball needs to send a message that any and all acts of violence against women is unacceptable.

"The letter written by several respected women leaders in our domestic violence community echoes an all too familiar reality where incidents involving violence against women are not met with true accountability. While Mr. Baer has apologized and expressed remorse for his behavior, it does not excuse his actions and it does not erase what transpired. Mr. Baer’s actions were serious and wrong. We are a City that loves and supports our San Francisco Giants, and that means holding our organization and its leaders to the highest of standards.

“Every little girl, every woman should be able to attend a Giants game with a clear sense of the organization’s values. I share in the call to action by the women who have written the Commissioner calling for greater accountability. There must be a stronger public reaction and response to violence against women in our City and our country.”

The letter that Breed references in her statement came from a dozen San Francisco community leaders, who wrote to MLB that they’d like to see Baer disciplined. The San Francisco Chronicle cited portions of the letter, which told MLB their stance is about “… the responsibility that you, as well as the board and executive leadership of the Giants organization, have to fairly enforce MLB policy, as you would had it been a major league player in that video, rather than a high-profile CEO.”

MLB issued a statement on the day of the incident, saying: “Major League Baseball is aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed.” MLB has not commented since then.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office told the Chronicle on March 8 it hadn’t decided if charges should be filed and that police had been investigating the situation.